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A to Z: Compression of the Brain

May also be called: Brain Compression; Cerebral Compression

Compression of the brain is a condition in which something increases the amount of pressure pushing on the brain, which can damage brain tissue.

More to Know

The brain is housed in the skull, where it is cushioned by a protective fluid called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The pressure inside the skull that pushes on the brain and cerebrospinal fluid is called intracranial pressure. Since the skull isn't flexible, if something causes intracranial pressure to increase, the brain gets compressed. This is most commonly the result of a head injury that causes bleeding or swelling in the brain, but also can be due to a tumor, abscess, or increase in CSF.

Symptoms of brain compression, which can show up immediately following a head injury or weeks later, include:

  • headaches
  • vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • confusion,
  • progressive loss of consciousness

Not treating compression of the brain can lead to the destruction of brain tissue and even death. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical, so anyone with a head injury that causes a loss of consciousness or other troubling symptoms should be examined by a doctor right away.

Treatment depends on the cause of the compression but usually involves surgery. Procedures may involve draining blood from the brain, removing a tumor or abscess, or removing a section of the skull to decrease intracranial pressure.

Keep in Mind

Compression of the brain is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. So whatever is causing it should be treated immediately to help prevent brain damage.

Preventing head injuries, which are frequent causes of this condition, is important. Always keep seat belts buckled in vehicles and wear helmets while playing sports, bicycling, horseback riding, or riding motorcycles.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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